Well, we've arrived! We took the red-eye Friday night, with a 3 hour layover in Houston, plus another 1.5 delay while waiting for the missing in action co-pilot to show up. We arrived in Managua close to 1p and spent a good 45 minutes trying to figure out the time difference between here and California. Here's what we figured out: Nicaragua is 2 hours ahead of California, but because it did not participate in Daylight Savings Time when the U.S. sprang forward an hour, it is now only 1 hour ahead. Just an FYI.
On another logistical note, if you are ever going somewhere where you have to change planes, make sure your baggage tags state the final destination of your journey. My bag unfortunately stayed in Houston while I continued on to Managua. Luckily I packed the essentials in my carryon, and Elisa, our very knowledgeable volunteer coordinator from Habitat for Humanity Nicaragua, assured me that I’ll have the rest of my luggage by tomorrow.
We spent Saturday getting over our jet lag – red-eyes are rough – eating lunch at a local restaurant in Managua, and dinner at the hotel we were staying for the night, El Hostal Real, a pretty B&B with lots of cultural flair. Sunday morning, we met HH Nicaragua’s Resource Development Manager, Vittoria, who gave us a tour of the capital city and taught us a bit about the cultural and political history of Nicaragua. We then traveled to Masachapa for our orientation; it’s also where we will be staying for the week while we build our family’s house.
The family. We got to meet them Sunday evening and it was an eye-opening, yet positive experience. We drove to the community of La Gallina, in San Rafael del Sur, passing many houses built of corrugated scrap metal and plastic. Ismael and Martha’s house is no different, but what makes their need great is the amount of people living in their house: 10 total. Martha works at the local sugar mill, as do most of the families in La Gallina; Ismael used to work there, but can no longer due to chronic illness. They have 10 children; 8 of whom still live with them, ranging from 18 year old Ismael to 8-month old Yader, who is cute beyond words and has the most infectious smile I’ve ever seen.
The family invited us into their current home consisting of a divided room in which one space houses the cooking area and Yader’s sleeping hammock, made from an old sack of rice, and the sleeping/living area, in which there is one bed. Almost everyone sleeps on the floor. Because the kitchen is enclosed in such a small space (the entire house is the size of my bedroom, which is pretty small), everyone is exposed to the smoke and fumes that come with cooking over fire, especially Yader. The extent of the poverty was pretty unreal. But the family was so sweet and welcoming; the children so shy and curious and playful, that I didn’t so much feel shock and dismay as I felt compassion, responsibility, and pleasure – we enjoyed ourselves, talking with the family and seeing the kids pose for pictures in hardhats. I felt purposeful, knowing what we had to do.
The initial bricks were laid for the new house, but the floor had not yet been covered in concrete. As of Sunday evening we had 19 rows of bricks to lay to complete the house. A very busy week lies ahead.